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Even though I had already been doing comedy for years, I had always been terrified of stand up. It’s intimidating on so many levels, so a couple of years ago, to get over my fear I took a class, “The Feminine Comique” with the incomparable Cameron Esposito. Quickly I learned how awesome she was. I was in awe of her ease on stage, as well as her support, honesty and willingness to help newbies. She is truly one of the main reasons there are more women comedians in Chicago than ever before

I didn’t think I could love Cameron any more, but I interviewed her and learned that she’s even more of a delightful person than I remembered: hilarious, positive and hard working. The universe can only reward all of that with continued good things. Read what she had to say and you’ll fall in love with her too.

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Cameron interviewing Andy Kindler for PYHT. Photo by Liezl Estipona

Cameron interviewing Andy Kindler for PYHT. Photo by Liezl Estipona

Serial Optimist: You were instrumental in helping build a supportive scene for women in the standup community in Chicago in many ways, including creating “The Feminine Comique” classes. Tell me about that class and your thoughts on women in the scene.  

Cameron Esposito: Well thank you so much. When you’re a lady standup, you get asked why more women don’t do standup, A LOT. My answer: it’s hard to want to start when you automatically feel bit on the outside and think differently than most standups – cuz most standups, being dudes, think from a dude’s perspective. Also: gals aren’t naturally taught to speak up about their opinions. I started FemCom to try and change those dynamics a bit – to allow gals to be a majority, at least within the class, and to train women to stand behind their opinions. I am very, very proud of Fem Com – 100 gals went through the program when I taught it – and I’m proud that it continues to be taught in Chicago by Kelsie Huff.

SO: How long have you been doing comedy and what has your path been so far?

Cameron: I started doing improv in college – I guess 12 years ago – did improv professionally in Boston for a while, and transitioned to standup 6ish years ago while living in Chicago.

SO: You moved to LA at the end of 2012. How did you know when it was the right time for you to leave Chicago?

Cameron: I am very goal oriented and I kind of felt like I was moving into a rut. Chicago is an amazing talent incubator, but my goals started to require industry support and Chicago just doesn’t have that support. That’s the best part about Chicago’s standup community – that it isn’t industry focused.

SO: What’s the biggest surprise, both good and bad about the transition to LA?

Cameron: Biggest bad surprise: there’s no money for live performance in LA. I knew this but still, after a few years making my living doing standup, it came as a shock.

Biggest good surprise: if you move out here after 12 years in comedy, you end up knowing some folks. I have reconnected with some folks I knew in college and regularly see standups that came up with in Chicago or have met traveling to do comedy over the last 6 years.

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Cameron Esposito – “Leave The Women To Me”

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SO: Did you always want to be a comedian?

Cameron: Sure didn’t. I wanted to be a priest maybe. Standup is really not that different – it’s a bit more raw and honest with less god and more bars. Which I much prefer.

SO: What’s a weird little secret about you that would surprise most people?

Cameron: I’m an introvert, a terrible insomniac and very high strung. Standup calms me – as does talking to folks before and after shows – but at home I mostly scheme and pace all night while watching episodes of “The Dog Whisperer“. He’s so good at this job, that Cesar Millan!

SO: You’ve performed with some amazingly talented people. Who did you geek out over the most?

Cameron: Bob Odenkirk came up to me backstage at the UCB to introduce himself and I was like “Yes I know who you are. Wanna do a spot tonight?” He told one joke at the debut of Put Your Hands Together and the crowd lost their minds.

SO: You’re an inspiration to a lot of young comics, especially women, in Chicago. Who’s your inspiration?

Cameron: I am in awe of Maria Bamford’s vision and artistry. Heavens to Betsy. Also: Bobcat Goldthwait is doing some very awesome stuff right now – he has transitioned a long, fruitful standup career into a highly praised directing career – it’s wildly impressive.

SO: Tell us about your podcast Put Your Hands Together, (which we recently reviewed) How did it come about?  

Cameron: My co-producer Ryan McManemin (of aspecialthing records) and I approached the UCB looking for a spot to produce the first ever standup podcast. Without knowing it, we were chatting with them the week before the legendary Comedy Bang Bang ended its live run at UCB. They offered us a test run of PYHT in that spot and we are currently on an open run there. It’s the perfect, intimate vibe for the show and creates excellent audio. Ryan is a master engineer and the UCB has been enormously supportive of the project.

SO: What do you think your strength is as a comedian? What are you still working on?

Cameron: I’m naturally comfortable onstage and great at crowd work and just chatting to people. In fact, I can get too comfortable up there and my biggest work is on keeping it tight and sticking to material.

SO: You are a delightful, positive human being. Does this come naturally to you or is it something you have to work at?

Cameron: Well hmmm…I think I am very positive. I come from this family with a crazy work ethic and a ton of support, so I’m not awesome at relaxing, but I’m pretty motivated and forward thinking. And I try to go for super long walks or do yoga or run it out at the gym to keep this positivity delightful and not wildly annoying.

SO: What makes you laugh, hard?

Cameron: Almost nothing, which is very embarrassing. I get all in my head while watching comedy – like I get kind of clinical about it because I’m trying to understand it and break it down. That said, I love English sketch group French & Saunders, the SuperEgo podcast and my girlfriend, Rhea Butcher, makes me laugh like crazy.

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SO Note: You can learn more about Cameron at cameronesposito.com or by following @cameronesposito. Put Your Hands Together runs Tuesday nights at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. Tickets here or download the podcast of the show here.